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Barry Lane
23 September, 2009  
My piece of Myer

Jennifer Hawkins gets behind the Myer share roadshow … Using sex appeal to flog stock … Barry Lane asks, why not sex to sell policies and politicians?

imageWe know it can sell almost anything – cars, booze, footy, entertainment, fashion, news, and a whole lot besides.

As Todd Sampson, one of the advertising gurus on the ABC’s The Gruen Transfer put it:

“Sex is the second strongest basic human emotion, after self-preservation. So it will remain in advertising as long as advertising exists, because they’re in the business of using human emotions to help sell products.”

That applies specially where it is intended that the product being spruiked is to be to bought by the more primal of the species – blokes.

For most blokes the mention of names like “Marilyn … Bardot … Loren … Elle … Kylie (and) ... Posh” set hearts racing and wallets opening.

I’m told women also have an instinctive positive reaction when alluring hunks like Clooney and Beckham are wheeled out to market something.

The question whether sex symbols can sell shares raised its head, so to speak, after the weekend papers carried full-page ads inviting prospective punters to pre-register for Myer’s upcoming IPO.

In addition to the ads there were also numerous reports and opinion pieces referring to the IPO.

imageHere’s an example.

The ads featured a picture of an attractive young woman declaring that already she had “my piece of Myer”.

I assume that the lady is Myer “ambassador”, former Miss Universe and all-round Aussie beach-babe, Ms Jennifer Hawkins.

“Jen” as she’s known to friends and followers, has primarily been in the business of displaying and selling lingerie and beach attire.

Flogging shares is a new line for her.

It was no co-incidence that a number of things coalesced late last week.

Myer announced that it had inked a new four-year treaty with their ambassador, reportedly for $1 million a year plus shares, disclosed its full-year results and said that it would be refloating the company later this year.

Myer CEO Bernie Brooks, was quoted in some conveniently synchronised piece of editorial as saying that Jen was “worth more than a million a year [and that Myer] would be happy to pay her anything” to have her on the team.

For her part, Ms Hawkins obligingly declared that being Myer’s ambassador was her “dream job” and that she was “very proud to be a Myer shareholder”.

imageFrom The Gruen Transfer I’ve learned that retaining a celebrity like Jen has at least two marketing advantages.

First, everything she says or does gets reported as “news”. By mere association, Myer will get heaps of free publicity for the IPO as well as the shops.

Secondly, endorsing shares is just like every other product or service celebrities are hired to flog.

It doesn’t seem to faze the punter that celebs are paid zillions to endorse the things and that all the spondooly might colour their recommendations.

Traditionally, brokers have been the preferred distribution platform for IPOs because they have armies of clients on their books who will take just about anything they’re offered.

Myer is breaking away from that distribution method by taking the offer directly to their target market, courtesy of Jen.

My bet is that it will work brilliantly because between now and when the prospectus hits the mail boxes, Jen’s marketing juggernaut will have everyone gasping for breath and reaching for their cheque books.

* * *

imageThere’s no better moment to mention the deeply disturbing and “astonishing” news reported by Michelle Grattan in The Age of September 15 that Warren Truss (snap), leader of the Nats in the Coalition of the Unwilling, is recognised by only five percent of voters.

Even outside the metropolitan areas Warren was recognised by only six percent of voters.

But wait, there’s more. Warren is “invisible” to women, being recognised by only two percent.

He’ll have to step-up attendances at CWA scone nights or perhaps a Silvio Berlusconi makeover might help.

The pits of the polling were reached with the revelation that Barnaby Joyce, “flamboyant” leader of the Nats in the Senate, polled strongly at three percent recognition.

Warren’s recognition factor is about equal to the minor element of what I might call Jen’s “flesh to foundation” ratio, which I would put at 95 to 5 most times we see pictures of her.

Obviously, Warren is an old, photogenically challenged bloke, without much of a sparkling personality or, dare I say it, sex appeal.

imageWarren has about zero chance of reversing the ratio from 95 percent unrecognized to 95 percent recognized.

But if sex can sell shares, why not political candidates and policies?

The National’s could do a lot better with Senator Fiona Nash (seen here) – blonde, bright and great in a swimsuit.

There may be nagging and unfair doubts about Jen’s skills as an investment analyst, but there’d be no such credibility issue if Fiona quietly assured you, “I’ve got my piece of policy”.